British Airways has cut its Airbus A318 commitment, halving orders to six and cancelling all its options.

BA signed a deal with Airbus in October 1999 for up to 24 107-seat A318s, including 12 options, powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW6000. Deliveries were due to begin early next year, for operation from the airline's regional hubs.

BA had been seeking to put off deliveries after the US terrorist attacks, and the certification date for PW6000-powered A318 has since been delayed by almost three years to mid-2005 due to a major engine redesign. The airline's Future Size and Shape rejig has also eliminated near-term need for the small Airbus, with Avro RJs being moved from London Gatwick to the regions.

BA confirms that it has cancelled six of its 12 firm A318 orders and all 12 options. In exchange it has placed four orders for the larger A321. The airline is a major A320 family customer, operating 48 A319/A320s. The A321 deal is the first for the larger model, although two A321s were ordered in 2000 for franchise partner British Mediterranean.

BA denies its decision is motivated by the PW6000's technical difficulties: "This decision is purely to do with putting the right sized aircraft on the London market," the company says. "We need larger aircraft in the London market."

Source: Flight International